Black student with classmates

Conservatives Should Seize Opportunities in Education

Anthony Kinnett and Daniel Buck write at National Review Online about conservatives’ chances for gains in education policy.

If universal school-choice legislation passed tomorrow and parents finally had the freedom to choose schools for their children, with public funds to access them, would utopia follow? We doubt it.

Ninety percent of students in the United States currently attend public schools. If choice-based systems were expanded, the same teachers, administrators, and union officials who run our schools today would staff them, bringing along the same politicized curricula and ideologically driven practices of our present schools. …

… It would be akin to allowing a chef to add a new item to the menu but supplying only the ingredients for lasagna. He might come up with some variation — but it’s still going to taste a whole lot like lasagna. If we added choice to the public-school system tomorrow, we’d still be functioning with the ingredients that we had yesterday, without substantive change. …

… We’re both ardent supporters of school choice. We have defended it here and elsewhere, again and again. However, the unfortunate reality is that school choice is necessary but not sufficient when progressive ideology dominates the institutions around which choice would function.

With school-choice bills on the table in over 30 states, greater educational freedom may soon be at hand. But that would not be the end of the story. School choice would certainly rattle the current progressive monopoly over public education, but the state still controls the supply of teachers and administrators, and the problem remains that there simply aren’t enough private and parochial options to meet new demand. …

… The Left spent decades on a long march through our institutions, and they gained considerable ground, perhaps nowhere more so than in our schools. Those on the right need to begin drawing up plans to create a new education system from the ground up if they’re to be taken seriously in education reform.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...